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Covid 19 delayed inquiry commission report on Thoothukudi police firing, TN government to Madras HC

Chennai, September 13(BPNS)

Tamil Nadu government on Monday told the Madras high court that the Commission of Inquiry(CoI) of  Justice (Rtd) Aruna Jagadeesan probing the Thoothukudi police firing delayed in filing the report due to Covid -19 pandemic. The state government was responding to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Henri Tiphagne, Executive Director of People’s Watch, a human rights organization based in Madurai.

It may be noted that in the Thoothukudi police firing against protestors of Anti –Sterlite copper plant on May 22, 2018 in which 13 people lost their lives and several injured.

The state government in its counter-affidavit filed before the first bench of the Madras High Court comprising of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice T.S. Sivagnanam said that the probe was stalled for two periods in April 2020 and June 2021 due to the first and second waves of the Pandemic.

The government in its counter-affidavit said ,” The CoI is probing the police personnel since July 2021”.

The CoI had to complete the probe and inquiry into the shooting incident within three months of its constitution on May 23, 2018, but its tenure was extended periodically as it required examination of several individuals.

The Government in the Counter affidavit said that the commission visited the place of the incident and received affidavits from police, Sterlite copper smelting staff , revenue officials, journalists, and ambulance staff as also those working in the Collectorate to get their version on the incident.

The government in the affidavit said that the commission requested the Thootukudi collector to share footages from May 15th to May 22nd  the CCTV cameras installed inside the Collectorate. It is to be noted that the shooting incident occurred on May 22. However the officials have informed the CoI that Crime Branch Criminal Investigation Department has taken procession of the hard drive

The CB-CID informed the CoI that the hard drive  was given to the CBI that conducted further investigation and the CBI informed that the footage were sent to Centre for Advanced Computing (C-DAC), Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.

The Government also deposed before the Madras High Court that it was after much persuasion that the hard drive was received from the Madurai first class judicial magistrate court in February 2021. The commission, according to the government testimony has summoned 1153 witnesses and examined 718 of them.

In the interim report submitted on May 14, 2021, the Commission of Inquiry had recommended withdrawal of criminal cases against protestors and payment of Rs 1.5 lakh as compensation to those who were arrested during the protest marches. The CoI also recommended issuing No Objection Certificates (NOC) to the arrested so that they could pursue higher education.

State government has ordered withdrawal of criminal cases against the protestors on the basis of the interim order of the CoI and decided to pay Rs 1 lakh as compensation to the 93 protestors who were arrested during the agitation against the Sterlite Copper smelting plant. 

The Thoothukudi district collector has in his compliance report informed the government that Rs 1 lakh was paid as compensation to 84 persons and the whereabouts of the remaining was unknown.